- A Little Hatred (The Age of Madness #1).
- Joe Abercrombie.
- 480 pages.
- Grimdark / Fantasy / Fiction.
- My Rating: Hell Yeah Book Review.
War. Politics. Revolution.
The Age of Madness has arrived . . .
The chimneys of industry rise over Adua and the world seethes with new opportunities. But old scores run deep as ever.
On the blood-soaked borders of Angland, Leo dan Brock struggles to win fame on the battlefield, and defeat the marauding armies of Stour Nightfall. He hopes for help from the crown. But King Jezal’s son, the feckless Prince Orso, is a man who specialises in disappointments.
Savine dan Glokta – socialite, investor, and daughter of the most feared man in the Union – plans to claw her way to the top of the slag-heap of society by any means necessary. But the slums boil over with a rage that all the money in the world cannot control.
The age of the machine dawns, but the age of magic refuses to die. With the help of the mad hillwoman Isern-i-Phail, Rikke struggles to control the blessing, or the curse, of the Long Eye. Glimpsing the future is one thing, but with the guiding hand of the First of the Magi still pulling the strings, changing it will be quite another . . .
I received a free copy of this book courtesy of the author in exchange for an honest review.
A Little Hatred, the first book in Abercrombie’s new The Age of Madness trilogy sees the author return to the world of his The First Law trilogy. I’ve seen a few people asking whether or not you can read A Little Hatred without having first read The First Law trilogy. And, I thought, as someone who has read The First Law trilogy and the subsequent standalone books that take place in the same world that I would share my take on the subject. For me, I’d say that yes, you can easily read, enjoy and that you will thoroughly relish your time spent with A Little Hatred without having read the original The First Law trilogy or the standalone books. Just go read it, experience Abercrombie and love it, it is that damn good.
However, while not essential to your reading pleasure having that prior knowledge gained from the original trilogy (and to a far lesser extent the standalone books) is beneficial and serves to offer a richer and more rewarding reading experience. A Little Hatred features characters who are the next generation, the children of characters from The First Law trilogy. Thirty years have passed since the ending of The First Law trilogy and the characters and their deeds are etched in the memory of the world. They are still talked about (for example, young warriors still idolise and worship the legendary Bloody-Nine) and they have cast a long shadow that is felt in this new age, if you will, this dawning age of madness.😉
The events of the past and your lineage, your parentage are a burden that many carry forward and that echoes down the years. There are events and people mentioned in A Little Hatred that are the past and what is now the history of the world. To a new reader, they are just that. They are the history of the world of the book that the reader is currently reading, the events and people who have shaped the present and the current time. But, if you’ve read The First Law trilogy then, while yes, the events and people mentioned as history are still just that. You were there, you bore witness and you read about many of those events, those deeds and those people as that history unfolded. That knowledge, that recognition of names adds an extra layer to the story and to the world in A Little Hatred. An added depth to what you are reading and an emotional connection to the people from the past when they are mentioned. Or, when they appear as some are still alive, make appearances and have roles in A Little Hatred. Don’t mistake me, A Little Hatred is its own bloody, brutal and grim beast and it doesn’t repeat or retread over old ground. Yes, at times you are walking over the bones of the past. But, that past is used as a building block and a foundation to expand upon and grow. A Little Hatred is very much about the new cast of memorable characters and the unfolding story that they are involved in.
The Union is facing trouble on duel fronts from within and without. Times are changing and society is embracing the future. Modernity and progress abound and the Union is in the midst of an industrial revolution. Factories, foundries, mills and machines are replacing man. Power, profit, greed and wealth reign supreme with the rich few getting richer while the vast majority of the populace, the poor are getting poorer. With refugees flooding into the cities and one machine doing the work of ten men every day there are more and more people looking for work and not enough jobs to go around. Those jobs that are available are akin to slave labour and involve working long and gruelling hours for a pittance. Industry is polluting the rivers, poisoning the air and the workers live in squalor with poverty, sickness and starvation rife amongst them. People can only lose so much before bitterness and resentment start to fester. Before something has to break, to give and the fires of discontent are being stoked and the seeds of rebellion sown by a group known as the Breakers. While in the untamed and wild North they cling to tradition like a babe to the teat. One such northern tradition seems to be the endless cycle of war and once again, the North has invaded the borders of the Union.
The story in A Little Hatred is complex, fast-paced and sprawling. Featuring battles, betrayal, conspiracies, politics, revelations, treachery and violence. it is never anything less than being both hugely entertaining and totally gripping. There are lots of connected and interwoven parts that unspool over multiple locations and are told through the several different and distinctive PoV characters of Leo dan Brock, Prince Orso, Savine, Rikke, Vick, Clover and Broad. I’m hard-pressed to pick a favourite PoV character as I enjoyed reading about them all. But, after finishing the book and looking back. I’d have to say that my favourites were Leo dan Brock, the Young Lion, the headstrong and impulsive young warrior who is fighting against Stour Nightfall, the Great Wolf and the invading army of the North. Rikke, who is forthright, honest and who is, well, Rikke is just Rikke with no false facade or mask and she is the daughter of the Dogman. Rikke is struggling to come to terms with the gift of the Long Eye and what the glimmers, glimpses and visions she sees portent with the aid of the older hillwoman Isern-i-Phail. Crown Prince Orso. Orso is the foppish, indolent and unreliable son of High King Jezal who spends most of his time in a miasmic haze of drink, drugs and whores but has a vague desire to both be and to do better. And, finally Savine dan Glokta. Yes, if you just smiled at the mention of Rikke being the daughter of ‘the Dogman‘ and Orso being the son of ‘Jezal‘ two names known to all who have read the original The First Law trilogy. Then, at the mention of the name ‘dan Glokta‘ you will be absolutely ecstatic. Savine is an astute and ruthless businesswoman. She is ambitious, cunning, power-hungry and shares many of the same traits as her father. But, she is also very much her own woman too.
The cast of characters in A Little Hatred are a multifarious and engaging bunch and there is a depth to them all. Sometimes that depth takes a while to show, to be revealed but as the bone beneath the skin, it is there. They are fully-fleshed, real, relatable and flawed. They struggle internally, toil with their actions, the consequences of those actions and their choices. They have their own agendas, motivations and they often straddle the line of morality. Throughout the book you see them change and grow shaped by events and actions.
One of the things that really stood out for me was the differences and the dynamics between the older characters and the younger, especially with the warriors which is fantastic. The older characters are veterans of many battles, they are world-weary, they have seen and lived through a lot and they have the scars, often both physically and mentally to show for their advanced years. Simply put, the young don’t. The old-timers know the way of things, understand the world and they have a more measured approach. The old see the world through often cynical and always jaded eyes. For them, they know that the world is a violent place but they don’t yearn for that violence. Instead, they know it as the inevitable outcome when things truly turn bad. Whereas, the young pups see through fresh eyes. They are foolhardy and reckless. They rush in and don’t think about the lasting consequences of their actions. The young see battle, see war as a way to fame, to become someone, to make a name for themselves and to establish their legend. As such, they crave bloodshed, are eager for violence and they still have tough lessons to be learned from a world that is cruel and harsh.
Some of the characters you will love, some you will hate and, at times you will love the ones you really should hate. There are bastards galore in A Little Hatred and you might even say that A Little Hatred is a brutal yet beautiful bastard of a book.
Abercrombie’s writing is of the highest quality making A Little Hatred effortlessly readable. There are astute, clever and wry observations, emotion, moments that are poignant and a gallows type of dark humour with a droll and sarcastic edge. A special mention deserves to go to the dialogue between characters too which is nothing short of outstanding.
The fighting is chaotic. Like a churning and dramatic maelstrom that is full of weighted carnage with blows and wounds that you feel. Abercrombie is a master at writing cinematic and visceral action scenes and there is a couple of absolutely stellar action setpieces, sublime in their depiction that spring to bloody life in A Little Hatred.
Regardless of whether A Little Hatred is your first Abercrombie book and you go in blind as to what to expect. Or, if you are a seasoned reader A Little Hatred finds Abercrombie on fine form and at the top of his game. A Little Hatred was one of my (and most other fantasy fans) most anticipated books of the year and it didn’t disappoint. It is a book that will garner Abercrombie a legion of new fans and a book that will make old fans remember why they originally fell in love with his work. It is absolutely spectacular and one of the best books that I have read in 2019.
Purchase A Little Hatred (The Age of Madness #1).
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